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12/31/2006

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Jack

We'd have to do a lot more work to compare the US to Norway or Sweden and make a case that severity of penalties THE reason for lower drunk driving fatalities.

First these "nanny states" started long before the US to change attitudes, Norway starting off with a .05 in 1936.

Sweden and Norway are both .02 or a single drink in an hour for 180#..."half a Martini for m'lady?" Apparently they use checkpoints for enforcement.

Such a policy would seem to fit with Becker's claim that "the decision" would made before going out as it's virtually an absolute. While in the social drinking-tolerant US they would be a lot more likely to "stop in for one" or go to friends for dinner and a couple of drinks, but drink more over several hours and then make a highly subjective decision. Has everyone had at least one experience with trying not to "Let friends drive drunk?" Is it easier at a suspected .08 or at .15 or more?

I suspect that both countries having civilized healthcare systems for all that provide some counseling and treatment for depression etc. helps substantially as well.

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/MISC/driving/s15p2.htm

As the first country in the world Norway introduced a legal BAC limit of 0.05 percent (50 milligrams alcohol per 100 milliliter blood) in 1936. Moreover, Norway has a long tradition of strict enforcement, with three weeks imprisonment as the normal punishment up to 1988. After 1988 fines were the normal punishment for first offense up to BAC of 0.15 percent and imprisonment above BAC of 0.15 percent. In addition the driverÔøΩs license is suspended, for one year or more.

Good article on Sweden's policy:

"The first of July 1990 the legal BAC limit in Sweden was lowered from .05% to .02%."

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/MISC/driving/s15p2.htm

Briefly on transfats: Feeding it to the kiddies is OK because they don't croak on the spot? Did any of the studies relate to health effects on youth?

As for the speed of voluntary change, one thing is sure, the ban in the NYC market of 10 million will speed things along and publicize the problem!

Jack

Bernard Yomtov

Dr. Becker,

Thank you for addressing my comments. I did in fact misunderstand the point of your calculation with respect to punishment for drunk driving.

As for the optimal level, while I understand the idea I think that level is likely extremely low. I can think of cases where someone drinking at home, or otherwise not expecting to drive, is suddenly required to do so by an emergency of some sort. Otherwise, the social value of drunk driving seems to me to be small, since many of the costs the would-be driver incurs by not driving are, like parking fees, largely transfers. Rather than factoring these cases into punishment perhaps the best way to allow for them is to permit some sort defense based on unusual circumstances.

A Happy New Year to both you and Judge Posner.

Garth Brazelton

"Heart disease is not common in younger persons unless they are extremely obese, and I do mean extremely. In fact the effect of weight on mortality is not large except at the extremes of the Body Mass index (BMI) distribution. This is shown in the work of my colleague Robert Fogel and his students, and others."

Fair enough Dr. Becker. But I don't see how that is an adequate critique to the point that teenage obesity (or amoung younger human beings in general) causes a whole host of other health problems in a person's youth (ie not far into the future) that would not have been had had the person eaten healthier choices. The AACAP finds that obesity causes marked increased in reduced psychological health of teenagers and young adults. It can cause high blood pressure and /or high cholesterol, which in and of itself can cause a whole host of problems....

And while I agree the latter of these problems tend to happen more at the upper-ends (of weight) in young age compared to when a person is older - the fact is, that it is becoming increasingly less common in young people. And, the notion that a child goes through some ridiculous thought process where they can rationalize becoming obese (and all the potential aforementioned problems listed above that comes with it) because they think the probability of there being a 'cure' when they are older' is high enough, seems in and of itself wholly ridiculous to me.

Kids are taking on real 'current' risks that to me seem far less remote than there being a future 'cure' for all the potential negatives in old age that overeating in young adulthood can cause. Therefore, I think to ignore outright the pscyhological / addictive and potentially temporally irrational properties that food can have on some people, is, with all due respect, a mistake.

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